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Lynne Berry is a visiting senior fellow at City University Cass Business School in London, linking the corporate and voluntary sectors, supporting social enterprise and encouraging women’s leadership and professional experiences to be valued in all sectors.

Before joining Cass, Ms Berry has held five chief executive posts and served on many government bodies and company boards, including the International Women’s Forum UK and Pro Bono Economics, where she still works today. She has received a number of honours, including an OBE and was recently named one of the ‘100 Women to Watch’ in the Cranfield University Female FTSE Report 2012.

Ms Berry will be available for a live web chat on Thursday, 29th March 2012, between 1pm and 2pm GMT. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

Who are your business heroes?

In particular I admire the women who have combined their passion to change the world with their extraordinary leadership skills and management expertise to make the lives of people and communities safer, more sustainable and more empowering.

What would you do if you were dean for the day?

Test every programme for its ability to break down silos, to create opportunities for academics and students to be challenged and inspired by people from completely different subjects and backgrounds and to create the capacity to build connections.

How do you deal with pressure?

By going to operas – there’s nothing like the total experience of music, acting, lyrics, narrative and setting to challenge your preconceptions and inspire you with new ways of seeing the world. I go to everything from Monteverdi, to Mozart, to John Adam and experimental operas. I never fail to come out renewed.

What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

Go for it!

What academic achievement are you most proud of?

That I’ve managed to keep an academic backdrop to my executive life and been able to move between theoretical and policy activities and a successful career as a chief executive and regulator.

What is the worst job you have ever had?

Selling broken biscuits in Woolworths – yes I was that Saturday girl.

What is your life philosophy?

It’s summed up in a song on the album Trio by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris: “You don’t know what a chance is, until you have to seize one.”

The record had an inspired choice of singers, each at the top of their game when the album was made, their voices connected and wove patterns around each other. They obviously respected each other’s talents and brought experiences from different backgrounds and genres. Together they produced something none of them could have done on their own.

What advice would you give to women in business?

Network, do a great job, let others know about it, grasp every opportunity. You can always back out of something that doesn’t work out but once you’ve said no, you’ve said no.

How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

By recognising that some men will be your allies and some will never support you and developing the judgement to know which is which.

What are your future plans?

In the short term to develop the new programme at Cass so that we can understand how gender interacts with sector to determine careers and open or limit opportunities; in the mid term, to examine what difference it makes to work in a world with no formal retirement age – is this liberating, exploitative, energising, exhausting? And in the long term, to challenge the perception of older women as little old ladies who do a bit of charity work and to see them as drivers of social enterprise and economic growth.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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